Author and journalist Virginia Postrel talks about how business competes for customers using style and beauty, going beyond price and the standard measures of quality. She looks at the role of appearance in our daily lives and the change from earlier times when style and beauty were luxuries accessible only to the wealthy. She also talks about her donation of a kidney to a friend and how that affected the intensity of her feelings about the policies surrounding organ donations.
Substance of Style discussed. Aesthetics is increasingly important, and is a source of economic value. Why, when we are also told to ignore packaging and external beauty? Proposals:
1. Sensory pleasure is valued 2. Meaning conveyed by style is valued: pursuit of new pleasures, status signals future pleasure
Social critics say it's all about mindless competition. Some object to studying design at all.
Aesthetic design is not just directed to the rich. Target, Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Toilet brush example.Robert Frank, Luxury Fever; James Twitchell, Branded Nation.
Does good design add function as well as form? Examples of just form: Apple charges more for its black MacBook. Motorola.
Beaded shoes example. Measuring technological improvements is hard. Interpreting the CPI.
Hotel room example.Starwood, Weston, Sheraton. All white "Heavenly Bed." Holiday Inn slogan, 1975: "The Best Surprise Is No Surprise."
Variety matters as standard of living and familiarity increase. "What have you done for me lately?" Adam Smith: Specialization limited by extent of market. Large and mass markets now differ. Internet, Chris Anderson, The Long Tail. Visa, Mastercard, trusted intermediaries.
Kidney donations. Risk comparable to cosmetic surgery, but legal restrictions against giving consideration for any organ transplant stands in the way of human kindness.
Hospitals often refuse kidney donations between friends, though willing to do it between complete strangers or within families.
Thoughts on Milton Friedman's recent death. Friedman and Stigler. "Friedman never became soured.... He always believed you could change people's minds through argumentation and evidence."
Mailbag (Time mark 55:43-58:30)
On Richard Thaler on Libertarian Paternalism. John Brothers makes two comments: What if government actually did a good job of setting up Medicare effectively? Support would increase, but woe to us if we try to change or improve it later. Markets and systems change over time. Also: Getting gov't to do better is not the same as trying to get the gov't to do less. Both take time and energy.
Pietro Poggi-Corradini observes: Where gov't. is in competition with the private sector, some of these improvements would happen because the gov't. would want to attract more employees to its own cafeteria. Perhaps Thaler just wants to give the government consulting advice or be a government adviser. Doesn't that joint/conflicting interest suggest that "libertarian paternalism" is an oxymoron?